After a long gestation since being formed in 2006, Rizon Jet - the first Gulf-based business aviation firm to have a fixed-base operation in Europe - is close to being fully up and running, with its FBO in Doha, Qatar set to join its facility in London's Biggin Hill, which opened late last year.
The bases will provide luxury, Arabian-themed terminals for Rizon's many Middle Eastern customers who travel to the UK for business and pleasure. The torrid Gulf summer sees wealthy families head for cooler European cities and many of Qatar's elite are involved in the London property market.
However, Rizon also believes that having large hangars in both cities, with Part 145-qualified technicians, will allow it to expand the number of aircraft it has under management and available for charter. It currently looks after six - one Bombardier Global Express and two Challenger 605s, as well as two Hawker 900XPs and a Beechcraft Premier IA. All but the Global Express are available for charter, with one of the Hawker 900XPs and the Premier IA operated by an affiliated company, Oryx, in Biggin Hill. An Airbus Corporate Jet will join the managed fleet in 2012.
Rizon already employs 16 pilots and cabin crew in Doha, plus three pilots based at Oryx. It is also recruiting aircraft engineers for maintenance operations, as well as other management staff. "Numbers will increase as our managed fleet grows," says Patrick Enz, the company's Swiss chief executive. "Our maintenance services mean we can differentiate ourselves. We can provide a level of service not many of our competitors can and this will help us cross-sell." Only Jet Aviation and ExecuJet in Dubai provide business jet maintenance in the region.
As part of what Enz describes as a business plan aimed at enticing the "top-end customer", Rizon is also offering consultancy services. "A lot of wealthy people want to own an aircraft, but it is not that simple," he says. "It is a very expensive asset and you need expert advice to manage the aircraft viably. We can provide this in-house. We are not the cheapest, but we want to be the best."
Rizon, one of several top-end Gulf business aviation start-ups in the past four years, is owned by Qatari businessman Ghanim Bin Saad Al Saad, whose GSSG Holdings' portfolio includes construction, property, hospitality and education.
Enz says Rizon's local knowledge and roots give it another advantage. "We know the needs of Arab families," he says. Alongside the cabin manager, pilots on its business jets need to be ambassadors for the brand as much as aviators.
"This is very important," says Enz. "These are our staff who are closest to the customer." As well as a "comprehensive induction", Rizon's recruitment process puts "a lot of emphasis on speaking" to applicants, he says. "They have to like this sort of role. Otherwise, they will be completely wrong for it."
Patrick Enz: "We can provide a level of service not many of our competitors can"